Press Release

IACHR Takes Case involving Honduras to the Inter-American Court

November 17, 2015

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 12.585, Ángel Pacheco León and Family, with regard to Honduras.

The case has to do with the killing of Ángel Pacheco León on November 23, 2001, in the context of his campaign as the National Party candidate for a seat in the National Congress. The case also involves the situation of impunity surrounding his murder. Specifically, the Commission found that the Honduran State failed to comply with its duty to investigate with due diligence, as serious irregularities were committed in the early stages of the investigation; logical and timely lines of inquiry were not pursued, including evidence pointing to the participation of State agents; and there were other obstacles such as reprisals and pressures that were not properly investigated. The Commission also found that the State failed to comply with its obligation to investigate within a reasonable time. As for the attribution of responsibility to the State for the death of Ángel Pacheco León, the Commission noted that there were multiple indications of participation by State agents, which, as mentioned previously, were not properly investigated and were therefore not disproved by the State. In this regard, the Commission considered that the State may not rely on the failure to comply with its duty to investigate and that in this case, the aforementioned evidence makes it possible to determine that the Honduran State is responsible for what happened to the victim. As a result, the IACHR concluded that Ángel Pacheco León’s right to life and political rights were violated, as were his family’s rights to personal integrity, a fair trial, and judicial protection.

In its Merits Report, the Commission recommended that the State of Honduras provide adequate reparations, both material and non-material, for these human rights violations, and develop and carry out an impartial, complete, effective, and expeditious judicial investigation to establish the circumstances leading to Ángel Pacheco León’s death, identify everyone who participated as instigators or perpetrators at the various decision-making levels, clarify the power structures that were involved in committing the violations that occurred, and apply the relevant sanctions. The IACHR also recommended adopting the relevant administrative, disciplinary, or criminal measures to investigate and, if appropriate, punish any actions or omissions of State agents who contributed to the denial of justice and to the impunity in which the events of the case have remained. Moreover, the Commission requested the State of Honduras to adopt the measures needed to avoid a recurrence of events similar to those in this case, such as designing and implementing ongoing courses on human rights for police officers, prosecutors, and civil servants of the judiciary, specifically on the technical aspects of investigating cases of violent deaths, in the light of international standards on this subject.

The Inter-American Commission submitted the case to the Court’s jurisdiction on November 13, 2015, because it considered that the State of Honduras had not complied with the recommendations contained in the Merits Report. The Commission submitted the entirety of the facts in that report to the Court.

This case provides an opportunity for the Inter-American Court to develop its case law concerning the duty to investigate violations of the right to life, particularly when the motives for a killing that may be linked to the exercise of political rights are an essential component of the duty to investigate with due diligence.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 131/15